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A lucky escape in Doodlebug Alley

by shropshirelibraries

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Archive List > V-1s and V-2s

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People in story: 
J G Taylor
Location of story: 
Cheam, Surrey
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Contributed on: 
18 July 2005

I was 13 and a half years old at the time. It was a glorious early Saturday morning in November 1944, with a touch of Autumnal mist diffusing the sunshine. We lived in Cheam in Surrey, in an area which had come to be known as 'Doodlebug Alley'. More of these German flying bombs landed in our Borough than anywhere else in the London area.
When these weapons first started to arrive in the June, as soon as their engines cut out for lack of fuel, they would go into a steep dive and explode seconds later. The rule for survival was 'Dive for cover as soon as the throbbing stops - and quick!' But by the November, the Germans had created a variant whereby the doodlebug glided on after the engine had stopped. So many arrived in this manner that one got blase and forgot the possibility that one, heard distantly, could be heading your way.
I was out in the back garden with Father just after breakfast. We'd heard the distant noise of an arrival, then the cut-out. The next thing we were conscious of was an ever-increasing whooshing noise. We both looked up to see the doodlebug gliding directly towards us and no higher than twice the height of the house. We could pick out every rivet in the metalwork. We were glued to the spot in shock.
It glided on some two hundred yards before exploding on contact with the ground. As luck would have it , it landed in the park, rather than amongst the houses nearby. There was a lot of smashed glass and damaged roofs, but no injuries or loss of life.
A lucky day for us all - especially Father and myself!

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Message 1 - A lucky escape in Doodlebug Alley

Posted on: 18 July 2005 by Peter - WW2 Site Helper

Dear Mr Taylor

I read your story with interest and in particular the impression that the V1 had made on you.

However, you say that "But by the November, the Germans had created a variant whereby the doodlebug glided on after the engine had stopped". But there was no such variant.

The V1s used on London were the basic Fi-103A-1 version. There were a series of minor modifications, such as a hardened-steel cable cutting edge along the wings to deal with barrage balloons, but in essence the model remained the same. The model Fi-103B-1, with plywood wings, came into production in March 1945, but none of these fell on London.

All V1s were targeted on London Bridge, but they were wildly inaccurate. They had ample fuel, range was preset. Distance was measured by a minute fan in the nose, after the requisite number of turns of the fan, detonators exploded and locked the flaps causing it to dive steeply.

The dive was not caused by the exhaustion of fuel as was widely believed, nor was the engine shut off intentionally. The Germans expected that the V1 would go into a power dive, not realising that the engine vanes were so weakened by the hammering of the pulse-jet engine during the flight that the dive caused a massive shutter failure which ended engine combustion. However, once the detonators had fired there was no way that a V1 could glide horizontally. What you assumed was level flight would have been the steep parabola of descent.

Be that as it may, you had a lucky escape and I enjoyed reading your story.

Kind regards,

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